BY JOE COTTON
Former England and Arsenal defender Sol Campbell claimed this week that he would have been the captain of the English national team “for more than 10 years” if he was white. The now-retired premier league winner has been the centre of attention throughout his career, most notably when he claimed he would pledge his future to boyhood club Tottenham Hotspur before moving to Spurs’ arch rivals Arsenal (which earned him the nickname “Judas” from Spurs fans). Campbell continues to make headlines even after he’s hung up his boots.
The claims were made in an authorised biography serialised by The Sunday Times in which Campbell wrote: “I think the FA (Football Association) wished I was white. I had the credibility, performance-wise, to be captain … I was consistently in the heart of defence and was club captain early in my career.” Campbell was an England captain for three games in his 11-year international career, all friendly matches, under two different managers, Glenn Hoddle and Sven Goran Eriksson. He subsequently became the second youngest England captain after the late Bobby Moore although was later stripped of that title by Michael Owen, who Campbell doesn’t believe deserved captaincy. Campbell spoke of his old teammate: “Owen was a fantastic striker, but nowhere near being captain.” It seems the ex-Spurs/Arsenal/Portsmouth/Notts County/Newcastle defender still likes to incite controversy even though his playing days have been over for almost three years.
Campbell fully believes his claims of racial favouritism deciding the captaincy of the national team, yet ex-Arsenal striker Ian Wright (who was also a black professional footballer) believes Campbell just wasn’t a big enough character on the pitch. “I think he’s got the credentials to be captain, but to be captain for 10 years? I’m not sure when you see some of the players around then,” Wright told BBC5. He later added: “I want a captain that gets in and gets you going. Sol has never had the demeanour where he’s aggressive on the pitch and put people in their place.” Many England teammates said David Beckham wasn’t an aggressive character when he was captain of England, but all it would take was a slightly irritated look from Becks to make teammates feel completely powerless and minute.
Several other big names involved with the England national team have expressed their opinions of Sol Campbell’s claims, with the vast majority showing surprise and confusion. Campbell’s ex-England teammate Stuart ‘Psycho’ Pearce thinks the claim is incorrect. “I find it a very unusual statement but it’s obviously something Sol believes,” Pearce told the Weekend Sports Breakfast. “I wouldn’t believe for one moment that he was ever denied captaincy because of the colour of his skin. I find that incredible. Paul Ince was captain of England and that didn’t hold him back in any way, shape or form.”
All the commotion of these allegations has sparked a response from England’s first black captain Paul Ince, who was first handed the captain’s armband in 1993. Ince pointed out the list of England captains that were playing around the same time as Sol Campbell and told the Daily Mail: “There’s been me, (Tony) Adams, (Stuart) Pearce, (David) Seaman, (Alan) Shearer, (John) Terry, (Rio) Ferdinand … that’s a lot of big names with a lot of big egos.” Ince also argued the point that the vast majority of England skippers had to make do with relatively short tenures as captain. “Sol’s a clever, articulate man and a friend of mine but he wouldn’t have been England captain for 10 years – nobody is.”